I sat in the rear of the auditorium with my parents. I graduated earlier that year and yet here I was back at my old high school. I was only here for my brother and sister. I wasn’t one of “those kids” that couldn’t leave my high school behind me.
It was a long two-hour show. The sopranos were quiet compared to the powerhouses of the last year, myself not included, but the tenors had been amazing. At the end, I knew what happened next. Every Christmas, the Paris High School Concert Choir sang “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah, and every year, the music director invited alumni to join in the song, on-stage.
I am not one of “those kids.”
I sat and watched as a handful of people walked onto the stage. “Losers,” I whispered.
The music director said it again. Is she trying to coax me onto the stage?
Nope. I’m not doing it. Can’t make me.
I stared at my sister in the alto section. Her eyes looked focused on me.
“Don’t do it, Mel.” “Do it.”
Do you really want me up there with you?
“No. Yes. No. Yes.” I couldn’t tell what she wanted.
A final call came out, and Dad patted my shoulder. “Go on, Mel.”
It’s a long, agonizing walk to the stage. I’m holding everyone up now.
I tried a casual jog. I reached the stairs and took one. Hurry up!
I lift my foot to the next and tripped.
My knees and palms dropped onto the hard cedar steps. Ow!
Laughter erupts in the auditorium and on-stage. Jeezus, everyone’s laughing at me! I found out later that I exaggerated it in my head, but boos are louder than cheers.
Can’t back out now. I swore, bit the corner of my lip, and rose with a groan. I took the rest of the stairs at a deliberate pace.
I stood at the end of the sopranos with my heart in my throat. I swallowed, trying to regain my composure, and declined the sheet music. I gave the music director a half-smile and a nod when she asked if I was okay. She lifted her hands, and the music began. Soft, be soft. You have nothing to prove.
We sang the song. I had to admit I enjoyed it, but I also was never, ever, going to do that again. I left the stage, sure I dropped my pride on those steps.
On the ride home, Dad admitted, “You sang louder than everyone else.”
“Great,” I said with a blush. Of course I did.